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Passenger Transportation

Passenger Transportation

The Vision

The safety, security, efficiency, and reliability of our Nations passenger transportation system and infrastructure will be world- class. We will waste less time and fuel while stalled in traffic jams, and less time and money will be wasted as a result of airline delays. There will be less transportation-generated pollution and noise in our communities. We will have increasing access to high- quality, public transportation during peak travel periods. Our vehicles will accommodate alternative fuels and new energy-saving technologies. America, as a result, will be significantly less dependent on foreign oil. Our transportation system will minimize greenhouse gas emissions and be prepared for the impacts of climate change. Technological innovation will improve the way that people and goods move around the country and the world.

Trends in Passenger Movement

Growing, Changing U.S. Population

  • The Nations population is growing rapidly, from 280 million people in 2000 to a projected 364 million in 2030. At the same time, the U.S. population is aging. By 2030, the population of those over 65 years of age is expected to double to 70 million. In order to go about their daily lives, the aging population may increasingly look to efficient alternatives to motor vehicle transportation.
Traffic on highway
  • In step with the growing population and economy, highway vehicle miles traveled (VMT) are projected to grow 60%, from 2,952 billion miles traveled in 2005 to 4,733 billion miles traveled in 2030.
  • The Nations population will not be evenly distributed and many Americans will live in the South and West, where population is projected to grow by more than 40%. The burden on the transportation system in these areas will be extraordinary.


  • Fatalities recorded in all transportation modes totaled 45,026 in 2006 compared with 45,735 in 2005. Highway fatalities account for about 95% of transportation fatalities each year. Improving safety throughout the transportation network is the premier objective of U.S. DOT.
  • In 2006, there were 6 million traffic crashes in the U.S., injuring just under 2.6 million people, and the number of highway fatalities reached its lowest level, 42,642, in five years.
  • In 2006, a traffic crash occurred every 5 seconds, someone sustained a traffic-related injury every 12 seconds, and someone died in a traffic crash every 12 minutes. Today, alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes represent 39% of all traffic-related deaths.
  • A key indicator of the Nations highway safety is the number of highway fatalities per 100 million VMT. This rate has been decreasing and is currently at 1.42 fatalities per 100 million VMT. Faced with increasing VMT and a growing population, we must work to decrease the highway fatality rate to 1.0 or less per 100 million VMT.


Boston subway cars
  • In 2005, the Nations urban congestion problem resulted in 4.2 billion hours of travel delay, 2.9 billion gallons of wasted fuel, and a net urban congestion cost of nearly $80 billion, according to a 2007 Texas Transportation Institute report.
  • To reduce congestion, efforts are underway to increase transit ridership by 2% or more each year. Transit passenger miles traveled (PMT) increased by 15.8%, from 40.2 billion in 1997 to 46.5 billion in 2004. In 2004, 41% of PMT was on motorbus, 31% was on heavy rail, 21% was on commuter rail, and 3% was on light rail.
  • The airline industrys on-time performance in the first seven months of 2007 was the worst on record, and nationally almost 30% of all flights are now cancelled or substantially delayed. Travelers are being stranded at the airport, on the plane, and on the tarmac. A third of U.S. air traffic passes through New York airspace, and two-thirds of the Nations air traffic can be affected when the New York area experiences delays.
  • Aircraft travel is projected to nearly double, and current forecasts estimate over 1.5 billion air passengers annually by 2030. This will place unparalleled demand on the air system.
  • Record-level gridlock at airports, seaports, and on our Nations highways costs Americans an estimated $200 billion a year. Few Americans are being spared the inconvenience, and all of us are shouldering the costs.

See figure: U.S. Population and Highway Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) 2000–2030.

Energy Independence and Sustainability

  • Highway vehicle travel accounts for 81% of total U.S. transportation energy consumption, followed by air travel at 9%, water transportation at 5%, pipeline at 3%, and rail at 2%.
  • U.S. consumption of liquid fuels — including fuels from petroleum-based sources and increasingly those derived from non-petroleum primary fuels such as coal, biomass, and natural gas, is projected to total 26.9 million barrels per day in 2030. Most of the increase is in the transportation sector and is projected to account for 73% of total liquid fuel consumption by 2030.
  • Without extraordinary efforts to ensure our Nations energy independence, America will be in the highly vulnerable position of importing nearly 70% of our petroleum by 2030.
  • In the face of growing concern about global warming, reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in all sectors of the economy, especially transportation, is one of the major challenges for the U.S. In 2005, about one-third of the emissions originated in the transportation sector. In 2030, U.S. production of carbon dioxide emissions is projected to increase by nearly 35% over current levels.


  • On an average day, more than 1.1 million passengers and pedestrians, including over 630,000 aliens, over 235,000 air passengers, and over 330,000 privately owned vehicles, are processed at our borders, presenting a potential risk to National security.
  • Since 9/11, the Federal government has deployed sufficient technology to electronically screen 100% of airline passengers and checked baggage. Investment in purchasing new and maintaining existing baggage screening devices is expected to increase baggage throughput by up to 250%.


The large increase in system preservation investment since 1997 has had a positive effect on the overall physical condition of the Nations highway and bridge infrastructure. The percentage of VMT on pavements with "good" ride quality rose from 39.4% in 1997 to 44.2% in 2004. The physical conditions of National Highway System (NHS) routes, which carry nearly 45% of total travel in the U.S., are better on average than the conditions of other roads.

Pathway to the Future

Achieve "Twenty in Ten": President Bush announced the "Twenty in Ten: Strengthening Energy Security and Protecting the Environment" initiative in May 2007. The goal of the effort is to reduce projected gasoline usage by 20% in the next 10 years — 15% through the use of alternative fuels and 5% by increasing the fuel economy of cars and light trucks.

Strengthen Highway Safety Programs: U.S. DOT will expand efforts to reduce highway fatalities and injuries through behavioral safety programs, vehicle safety programs, continuance of the National Driver Register program to provide a credible source of vehicle driver records, and highway safety grant programs. Emphasis areas will include efforts to reduce the number of alcohol-related fatalities and injuries and to strengthen occupant protection.

Introduce Safety-Oriented Technology Programs: Many new safety-oriented technology programs are underway and nearing deployment, including the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Vehicle-Infrastructure Integration (VII) program directed at collision avoidance between vehicles and between the vehicle and the infrastructure.

Reduce Congestion: To counter congestion, the U.S. DOT announced a major initiative in May 2006, "The National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on Americas Transportation Networks." The "Congestion Initiative" brings together Federal, state, and local officials and stakeholders to deploy and demonstrate the effectiveness of tolling, other methods of congestion pricing, expanded transit service, strengthened telecommuting programs, and technological and operational approaches in the fight against gridlock.

Airplane in the air

Address Air Traffic Congestion That Clogs Our Busiest Airports and Airspace: U.S. DOT has started a process to help the busiest airports adopt new policies to efficiently address chronic airline overscheduling, which leads to long lines and delays on the tarmac.

Improve Air Passenger Complaint and Response Systems: The best way to protect consumers is to solve the underlying congestion and delay problems. As these problems are addressed, U.S. DOT is working on a number of initiatives to provide consumers with more information and protection.

Deploy NextGen: Over the next 20 years the Next Generation Air Traffic System (NextGen) is being deployed as one means to reduce air traffic delays. The new system involves major technology upgrades and replaces World War II-era ground-based radar technology with satellite operations.

Increase Role of Transit: By providing stable, predictable funds to urbanized areas, increasing funding for underserved rural communities, funding improvements to existing facilities and new multi-year construction projects, and improving transportation services to the elderly, the low-income population, and persons with disabilities, U.S. DOT is working to ensure that transit increasingly plays a vital role in the U.S. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is working in key high-threat urban areas to enhance security measures for critical transit infrastructure, including bus, rail and ferry systems.

Target Infrastructure Investment: Highway infrastructure quality numbers can be improved with more targeted investment strategies. There is a need to reconsider the infrastructure investment model and system performance criteria; spending options must be analyzed and existing systems must be managed more efficiently.

Transform Border Management and Immigration Systems: The US-VISIT program is the centerpiece of the U.S. governments efforts to transform our Nations border management and immigration systems through the innovative use of biometrically enhanced security measures and other technologies.

Realizing the Vision: Spotlight on Progress

"For too long our Nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists — who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments, and raise the price of oil, and do great harm to our economy."

President George W. Bush

20 in 10: Strengthening Energy Security and Protecting the Environment

"Successfully increasing the use of alternative fuels hinges on our transportation system. We need to ready the network for the biofuels economy, and this transition poses some complex delivery and distribution challenges."

Thomas J. Barrett
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation

President Bush has asked us to join him in pursuing the goal of reducing U.S. gasoline usage by 20% in the next 10 years — Twenty in Ten.

America will reach Twenty in Ten goals by:

  • Increasing the supply of renewable and alternative fuels by setting a mandatory fuels standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017 — nearly five times the target now in law. This will displace 15% of projected annual gasoline use. A new Alternative Fuel Standard will include domestic sources such as hydrogen, ethanol, biodiesel, and other alternative fuels.
  • Reforming and modernizing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars and extending the current light-truck rule. In 2017, this will reduce projected annual gasoline use by up to 8.5 billion gallons, a further 5% reduction that, in combination with increasing the supply of renewable and alternative fuels, will bring the total reduction in projected annual gasoline use to 20%.
  • Confronting climate change by stopping the projected growth of carbon dioxide emissions from cars, light trucks, and SUVs by 2017. At that time, the renewable fuel and fuel efficiency components of the plan would cut annual emissions from cars and light trucks by as much as 10% — equal to zeroing out the annual emissions of 26 million automobiles. The plan could cumulatively prevent the buildup of more than 600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The plan also includes:
  • U.S. DOT working with States and cities to save fuel, reduce commute times, and explore ways to reduce traffic congestion.
  • Stepping up domestic oil production in environmentally sensitive ways, and doubling the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to 1.5 billion barrels by 2027.

See figure: Energy use by Transportation Mode.

Urban Partnership Agreements: Working Together to Fight Gridlock

Urban Partnership Agreements (UPA) are a major component of the National Strategy to Reduce Congestion. Through UPAs, U.S. DOT is partnering with metropolitan areas to demonstrate strategies with proven effectiveness in reducing traffic congestion. Four strategies, collectively referred to as the "Four Ts," will be pursued. Each has a track record of effectiveness in reducing congestion:

Tolling: Implementing a broad congestion pricing or variable toll demonstration.

Transit: Creating or expanding express bus services or bus rapid transit, which will benefit from the free-flow traffic conditions generated by congestion pricing or variable tolling.

Telecommuting: Securing agreements from major area employers to establish or expand telecommuting and flex-scheduling programs.

Technology and operations: Utilizing cutting-edge technological and operational approaches to improve system performance.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters announced the first winners to receive lump-sum funding amounts to implement their traffic fighting plans: Miami, the Minneapolis area, New York City, San Francisco, and the Seattle area. Every Urban Partner proposed some form of congestion pricing.

Additionally, improved and expanded bus and ferry service will make it easier for commuters in these communities to leave their cars at home.

The plans also take advantage of new technologies to keep traffic moving and flexible work schedules and telecommuting to ease traditional rush hours.

NextGen: The Answer to the U.S. Air System Capacity Problem

"At the core of NextGen are infrastructure and operational capabilities to optimize air traffic management which, in turn, reduce congestion and delays in the system, save travel time for the public, and improve energy conservation and emissions."

Mary E. Peters
U.S. Secretary of Transportation

The aviation industry is critical to the economic growth and trade of the U.S., contributing approximately $640 billion to our economy and generating 9 million jobs equating to $134 billion in wages.

Today, the U.S. air traffic system is in trouble; delays are growing at many of the major airports. The current air traffic system cannot keep up with the projected demand.

Based on plans for updated procedures and new equipment, NextGen is envisioned as the answer to the Nations air system capacity problem.

Through NextGen, ground-based radar technology will be replaced by satellite-based operations. For the first time, pilots and controllers will have a common operational picture of the aircraft in U.S. airspace.

The new system together with other new technologies will allow aircraft to safely use airspace in much closer proximity and with less weather disruption.

Preliminary analyses indicate that NextGen capacity increases could yield economic growth as much as $175 billion through 2025.

By 2025, all aircraft and airports in U.S. airspace will be connected to the NextGen network and our air system will be better able to absorb the predicted increase in air transportation.

See figure: Air Passenger Demand 2000–2030.